Bus Lot Bid Sparks Debate

WINNSBORO (April 22, 2016) – A proposed bid of a little more than $1 million for a school bus parking lot to house 50 buses set off a lively discussion during the Fairfield County School Board’s regular meeting last week.

Based on a motion by Board secretary William Frick (District 6), the Board was asked on April 5 to approve a base bid award of $967,185 to AOS Specialty Construction in Lexington; however, the total cost of the bus parking lot is projected to be $1,165,237. In addition to AOS’s base bid, as well as sidewalk replacement costing $10,320, this amount includes site lighting, fencing, security beams, inspections and testing at $176,242, and technical costs of $11,480 for architectural and engineering work.

Muddying the water of what was eventually voted on by the Board, acceptance of the AOS bid appeared to mean tacit Board approval for a 66 percent increase in an earlier cost estimate for the parking lot.

Dr. J. R. Green, Superintendent, said that when the project was first presented to the Board back in 2013, it was approved at an estimated cost of $700,000. However, Green said, modifications to the original plans needed approval from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) as well as other agencies, which increased the initial proposed cost.

Boomerang, an N.C. engineering firm, was hired by the District to do the engineering and specifications for the project. Green said he was looking to “supplement the $700,000 with additional funding from the capital account to make up the difference, which will be approximately $400,000.”

However, the motion was never amended to reflect the total project amount or to ask for the additional funds, before it was passed on a 5-2 vote.

The goal of this project, Green said, would be to move all the buses from their temporary parking space behind Fairfield Middle School to a new, fenced-in lot at the District’s Transportation Office.

In an email to The Voice last week to answer follow-up questions, Greg Twitty, Purchasing Supervisor for the District, said the project had been bid out previously. However, Green told The Voice following the meeting that this is the first time the project has been put out for bid.

Annie McDaniel (District 4) voiced her concerns about the award to a non-county vendor, saying that she was aware of “three very capable contractors in the county for paving,” and wanted to know why none of the three had bid on the project.

“What efforts were put in place to ensure that persons in the country that do paving were aware that we had this project up for bid?” McDaniel asked.

Twitty stood up in the audience and said, “We did send a packet out to some of the local vendors in the area.”

When asked which local vendors were sent the bid packet, Twitty told the Board he sent it to “Washington” (Washington Trucking and Paving in Winnsboro).

However, in his follow-up email to The Voice, Twitty provided additional information that contradicted his statement to the Board. Twitty’s email listed 12 contractors who were sent bid documents for the bus parking lot, but Washington Trucking and Paving was not among them. The email stated that Washington and two other contractors had been contacted but they “did not request copies of the bid documents.”

In his email, Twitty said four contractors submitted bids and that the advertisement for bids ran in The Herald Independent, South Carolina Business Opportunities and The Voice.

“I could understand if we didn’t have anyone capable in the county,” McDaniel said, asking that the Board amend the motion and have the project rebid to make sure the package gets to all three of the vendors in Fairfield County.

“What if we do that and they still don’t bid?” Frick asked. “I agree, I want our local vendors to participate – it’s their money, it’s our money, and putting it back into the community has a multiplier effect. But if it was advertised, and they are not bidding, how do we make them bid?”

McDaniel said her amendment would just re-start the bidding process.

“We have waited this long, and another month should not give us any heartburn to make sure we have considered local vendors,” she said.

But Green spoke out against rebidding, saying it would add at least 45 to 60 days to the project. He added that the sooner they can move the buses off the parking lot, the sooner the District can start other renovations at the Middle School.

The amendment to the motion failed with Paula Hartman (District 2) and McDaniel voting yes, and the other five Board members opposed.

The Board then passed the original motion for approval of $967,195 for the bus parking lot construction award to AOS Specialty Construction.

McDaniel asked the Board to ensure that, “when we put contracts out, we are making a concerted effort to contact the vendors in this county that perform the work.”

AOS has sub-contracted the paving project to Armstrong Construction in Blythewood.


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